Published On: Sun, Mar 30th, 2014

Intimacy & Scale in Architecture & Design : A Conversation With Daniel & Nina Libeskind

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Nina and Daniel Libeskind (Photo by TK) and the American Folk Art Museum (Photo by Dan Nguyen / Flickr; Montage by AN)

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“I put my ear to the ground….”

So says Architect Daniel Libeskind in a special interview with him, his wife Nina Libeskind and Jewish Business News’ special correspondent, Tsipi Inberg Ben-Haim.

At the World Trade Center in New York, and Freedom Tower, the first new office tower there, are now moving rapidly towards completion more than twelve years after the tragedy of September 11th, 2001.

The master planner for the site, architect Daniel Libeskind, reflects on the long and very busy 10 years since he won the very prestigious competition to design Ground Zero and beyond….

TsipiDid architecture chooses you or did you choose architecture as a career?

Daniel:  That’s a good question. I think it’s probably more the latter than the former, because really, I didn’t practice architecture until… my first building which was, as you know, the Jewish Museum in Berlin. I had never built a building before that one.

Tsipi:  Tell us a little bit about it; how did it come about?

Daniel:  I participated in a competition, with a scheme that was very radical. And I think it was chosen precisely because it made a statement, but no one had any intention to build it. So they, you know, when you don’t intend to build something you can make a statement about what you want, what you are thinking about. But because of fate, destiny and Nina’s hard work it actually got built.

Tsipi:  Did you go to architecture school?

Daniel:  Yes I did; at Cooper Union here in New York.

Tsipi:  But you had also studied something else…

Daniel:  Yes, I was a musician before; I was a professional musician before. I was doing many other things before I did architecture.

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2012_SDL-NYC©Lana-Barkin Studio Daniel Libskind

Studio Daniel Libeskind / Lana Barkin

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Tsipi:  Ok; and any regrets at this point?

Daniel:  No, none.

Tsipi:  None at all?

Daniel:  None, although my wife Nina always says,… musicians have a better life than architects.

Tsipi:  Ahh, I’m not so sure…

Daniel: laughs

Tsipi:  But this brings me to a very essential question here. Your partnership; you are married to each other, you are best friends and you are also partners. How does it work? We know that many couples, after a few years of this kind of partnership, just break apart. How do you succeed having a healthy partnership?

Nina:  Well I think, when Daniel first won the competition and he asked me to join him I had no idea what it will involve.

Tsipi:  Which competition?

Nina:  For the Jewish Museum in Berlin in 1988, and we moved to Berlin on July the 4th 1989, in order to build it. And I had no idea what an architect did because up until that time, 1989, Daniel had been teaching architecture.

He had graduated from Cooper Union the first year we were married, or the second year we were married. So for me it was, all I knew was, that he was a student who had graduated from Cooper Union.

From there he received a professional degree in architecture, and then went to teach architecture. This of course involved him in that world, but he taught it also in a very different way. So for me, I had no idea what does an architect do; what does an office look like?

Tsipi: What did you do at the time?

Nina: I was in politics. I had been working in politics, and working for different NGO’s and other things. So when he asked me to join him I said you know as long as this work doesn’t drive us apart I’ll be happy to join you.

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